Westfront 1918 Screen 6 articles

Westfront 1918


Westfront 1918 Poster
  • Pabst doesn't permit the vaguest glimmer of hope; apart from a sentimental interlude in which one of the soldiers dallies with a French farm girl, the depiction of human relations is unremittingly bleak and cynical; at times, you wonder if the film isn't really a prolongation, into even darker and more brutal territory, of the bilious fatalism of Pabst's celebrated silent Pandora's Box.

  • When the final assault begins, it sweeps across increasingly epic vistas, composed in depth through multiple planes of action. The camera tracks through the trenches, from a high angle and far back, anticipating the pitiless objectivity of modern surveillance. Space on the battlefield holds no possibility of liberation or escape . . . , but rather a disorienting exposure that offers no place to hide, with only man-made obstacles of barbed wire emerging through the clouds of smoke.

  • Though his visual precision and spatial fluency are awe-inspiring, Pabst seems to be drawing inspiration in this period from literature and the humanities: he was 20 years ahead of his time in his abstract organization of material and his use of psychology to disrupt social roles and the fictional structures that depend upon them.

  • On the verge of a new nightmare, Germany looks back at an old one. . . . The shell-shocked lieutenant (Claus Clausen) exits with a salute and a yowl, a conciliatory gesture between supposed enemies at a makeshift infirmary states the anti-nationalistic credo. The Nazi Party’s censoring of the film unhappily answered the closing title’s question mark.

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    Film Comment: Max Nelson
    January 03, 2017 | January/February 2017 Issue (p. 11)

    You sense that Pabst could only have hit on such deep wells of visual resourcefulness—the vigor of his tracking shots; the vividness with which he shot faces; the generous place he reserved in his lighting for slim gradations of gray—as long as he was working in the service of a strong and deeply held moral idea.

  • The movie does a signal job of conveying the fear, monotony, dirt, and exhaustion of the trenches. . . . The camera is stationary in the trenches but runs wobbling along the surface up top with the soldiers. You see the blackout at night and the whiteout in daytime, hear the unsettling clicks and whirs that fill the silences between blasts. The process takes its toll on the viewer, who has been accorded ninety-six grimly visceral minutes of the outward signs of war.

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